Skip to main content

Citroën Light 15

Citroen Light 15 French 1930s classic sports car

Not many cars can claim to have changed the face of motoring. One that can is the Citroën Light 15. Its unique selling-point was the FWD - traction-avant - system. And, the Light 15's innovative engineering did not stop there. Its 3-speed gearbox sat in front of the engine - in the nose of the car. Drive passed through CV-jointed shafts - to the torsion-bar-suspended front wheels. Such a transmission set-up was ahead of the game in '34 - when the Light 15 was released. In terms of road-holding, it was a revelation. The only downside was that the FWD made the steering a tad heavy. A few visits to the gym, though, would soon have cancelled that out!

But, there was to be a tragic twist to this tale of technological advancement. The stress caused by spiralling development costs contributed to the premature death of André Citroën - founder of the firm. Sadly, he died without a sou to his name. His company, at least, was bailed out - by tyre maestros Michelin. As a consequence, the Light 15 would remain in production for years. Ironically, it ended up a great success, sales-wise. It was also highly influential. The Light 15's FWD - and up-rated handling - made it a big hit with the French police, for example. Equally, with some less law-abiding citizens. For both cops and robbers, then, driving had never been so much fun! Thanks to its 1.9-litre overhead-valve motor, the Light 15 had a top speed of 75mph. Hair-raising chases ensued. Even so, participants did not bounce about too much. The Light 15 had fully independent torsion-bar springing!

So, the Light 15 set many a benchmark. It was not until '55 - and the coming of the DS - that Citroën let it slip into well-earned retirement. It had done much to pave the way for its successor. In particular, it had pioneered the hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension for which the DS would be renowned. Styling-wise, the Light 15 stayed pretty consistent during its life-span. Many a fine example can still be seen on French roads ... a clear indicator of its high build quality. The French have a saying ... in English, 'The more things change, the more they stay the same'. The Light 15 was a case in point. Technology has become so sophisticated of late, it is easy to forget that cars like the Citroën Light 15 have always been pushing the envelope!


Popular posts from this blog

FN Four

In terms of breakthroughs in the history of motorcycling, there cannot be many to rival the first in-line four engine. Belgium was the birthplace of this landmark layout. FN was the much-to-be-thanked manufacturer.The FN Four first hit the highway in 1911. It produced 4bhp. That, from a 491 cc capacity. At the time, such figures described state-of-the-art technology. Top speed for the FN Four was 40mph. Not bad - for an 8-valve inlet-over-exhaust set-up. Oh, it was air-cooled.The FN Four was light - tipping the scales at 165lb dry. Not only the motor, but the chassis, too, was avant-garde. It featured an early form of telescopic forks. A new-fangled clutch - and 2-speed 'box - only added to the FN Four's slick box of tricks. Solid shaft-drive output the power. Who, then, designed this visionary vintage? You will not hear the name Paul Kelekom shouted from motorcycling's rooftops. But, you should - for it was he who fashioned the FN Four. In so doing, he ki…

Chrysler Airflow

The Chrysler Airflow was where Art met Science! The lines of its bodywork were drawn from aerodynamics - at a time when that discipline was a mere glint in a boffin's eye! Certainly, it was far from being routinely used in automotive design. Indeed, the Airflow was the first production car to feature the fledgling craft. A 'wind tunnel' was duly developed. Even today, such systems are considered arcane ... but, in the early '30s, they were tantamount to a black art! The engineering wizards overseeing the project were Carl Breer, Fred Zeder, and Owen Skelton. Breer was the catalyst ... he had been first to be smitten by the science of aerodynamics. Zeder and Skelton soon followed suit. And it did no harm at all when Orville Wright - father of aviation - was brought on board! More than 50 test cars were built. By means, then, of painstaking refinements, the Chrysler Airflow gradually took shape.But the Airflow was not just about aerodynamics. 'Weight lo…

NSU Ro80

The styling of the NSU Ro80 was ahead of its time. At first glance, masses of glass were straight out of science-fiction. Closer inspection revealed the gently rising line of its profile - giving it a low front, high back stance - which would influence automotive design for years to come. The 5-seater body was supremely aerodynamic for a saloon car - making cruising at speed a breeze. So flawless was it outwardly that it was hardly touched in ten years of production. Just the tail-lights were modified, on later versions.The Ro80's handling was equally impressive. FWD - and precision power-steering - kept it perfectly pointed. The long-travel strut suspension soaked up bumps. High-efficiency disc brakes were fitted all round. The 3-speed semi-automatic transmission swept through the gears with aplomb. Top speed was a sound 112mph.But, of course, nothing is perfect. The Ro80 was powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine. Unfortunately - in a rush to get the car into showroom…